California Forum

Looking for rules for resistance against Trump? Go back to the ’60s and ’70s

Our president has been in office for 100 days. Many are sorting out how to work with the new administration, some are still deconstructing how he got elected while others are calculating how to fight and resist.

For many, we are living in a wild, new world of radical politics from the left and the right.

I stumbled upon one of my books from the 1970s called “Rules for Radicals” – and realized the ghost of author Saul Alinsky is alive and well. He was an extremist from the 1960s, and this book influenced thousands who sought to change power structures with organizing grass-roots movements and adopting combative strategies for creating and maintaining political pressure.

His theory was based on tactics anchored in highly confrontational communication and action. This was not a call for negotiation or a method for building dialogue. The goal was to overthrow the status quo.

Reading the “Rules” reminded me of an uncompromising game plan from the far left. But remarkably, it also foreshadowed the rise of the tea party, upended mainstream politics and helped Donald Trump win the presidency. It could pose as a primer for new progressives as they fight against the current state of affairs. Imagine, a rule book for both sides.

I do not condone nor believe such tactics are totally right, and they may not be successful. But the strategies have a ring of truth in today’s politics.

Rule No. 1: Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have. Parade your power. Change agents claim space and territory bordering on self-centered righteousness as they march.

No. 2: Never go outside the expertise of your people. It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Stay in touch with your base by knowing your base. Build support anchored in personal and heartfelt appeals.

No. 3. Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear and retreat. Utilize tactics of Twitter and social media to spread stories, blur the lines between real and fake news.

No. 4. Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. Your goal is to overthrow the status quo. Promote the rise of the individual to upend the establishment.

No. 5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It’s irrational. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. Infuriate the opposition whenever possible.

No. 6. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Don’t become old news. Your movement needs to keep reinventing itself.

No. 7. Keep the pressure on with different tactics and actions. Never let up. Keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them with something new.

No. 8. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. Be relentless. Transform into a realistic radical not a rhetorical radical.

No. 9. If you push a negative hard enough, it will become a positive. The public sympathizes with the underdog. Forge transformative experiences in your favor by claiming righteousness.

No. 10. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.

“Rules for Radicals” launched an extreme action plan for those not in power. It borders on bullying. It alienates and oversteps perceptions of right and wrong. It can transcend into something that sounds sinister and evil. People will loose their moral compass by following these rules.

Do the rules apply once you have power? I’m reminded of the adage: Campaign with poetry, govern with prose. Alinsky was a radical poet and not necessarily someone who could govern. But the end goal was to win.

David Mas Masumoto is an organic farmer near Fresno and author of several books including “Epitaph for a Peach.” He can be contacted at